"...this eremitic life has a long tradition in the church, beginning with the desert saints of the second and third centuries."
: hermit; especially : a religious recluse
Eremite is such an interesting word but one I actually had not heard of until yesterday. As it turns out though, I have encountered several eremites and spent some time with them which may seem opposite to what they are. Let me explain.
A few years ago I was given the opportunity to visit a reclusive monastery in Ava, MO. This is where the Trappist Monks and the Nazareth Hermitage is located in the beautiful surroundings of the Ozarks. You can only come here if you are invited or if you are intending to live there.
I was of course invited to make a silent to semi-silent retreat here. Apprehensive as I was, it seemed like something I needed to do. I did go along with a small group of friends who were also invited.
There we were greeted by one Trappist Monk who was the appointed spokesperson for the grounds. We were allowed to roam the vast forest as we wished or in general stay in the assigned house for guest. This house included individual rooms or cells of which I had my own.
The monks who lived there only "saw" each other twice a day. That was for the early morning saying of the holy hours and for the daily mass. If I do recall, they met once a month for a meal together. Otherwise, they exclusively stayed alone to pray, think or commune with the Creator.
As I was a guest there, I did have the opportunity to "see" the monks who lived there when I attended their community mass. I put "see" in quotes because the truth is, it was dark in the chapel which was on purpose. You could see outlines of their brown cloaks and their hoods but that was about it.
The most marvelous thing was their singing. These men, collectively separate sung such beautiful melodies together, that you really did feel as the heavens had opened to you.
There are eremite nuns who live on the grounds too but you never see them. They do some work only four hours a year, to help the monks which is to make incense, fruitcake, soap and other things which is how they fend for themselves. Otherwise, the women stay in their individual homes and pray.
I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to visit there. I admire these men and women for the life they have chosen but, it is certainly not for me!